One of the oldest homes in east Tennessee stands at the edge of Maryville in Blount County. The log house has been in this spot for about 200 years as of this writing, first housing generations of the Thompson and Brown families, and then becoming a home for a variety of organizations. In 2016 it is the location of the Cades Cove Museum which preserves the memories of a community that was bought out and disbanded when Cades Cove became part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park just to the east.
William Thompson and his wife Rebecca Wallace Thompson constructed the house. They are the great-grandparents of Susie Ben Thompson of Henry County, Tennessee, and thus represent the last of the eight families to be introduced in this blog. William was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia after the Revolutionary War. His mother was Mary Bowen Reese, an immigrant from Wales whose first husband died from injuries sustained in the war while fighting for the revolutionists’ cause. She remarried to George Thompson who – oddly enough, given the fate of her first husband – appears to have been an English soldier who fought for the British army. Not only did he fight for the British, but he was attached to the most despised part of that army. A Blount County newspaper quotes William as claiming about his father: “Name was George. He was from England. He was in Tarlton’s Cober of Horse in the old war.”
“Tarlton” refers to Banastre Tarleton, a British cavalry commander who was an important officer for Lord Cornwallis during the southern campaign of 1780-1781 that culminated in Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. Tarleton was infamous in the colonies for his brutality, and “Tarleton’s Quarter” became a short-hand reference for “no quarter offered” after he reportedly massacred a contingent of Virginia Continentals that was attempting to surrender. Participation in Tarleton’s cavalry was a very unusual way to immigrate to America.
William’s entire family seems to have moved from his birthplace in Virginia to Blount County sometime prior to his marriage to Rebecca Wallace in 1811. Family members became very prominent in the area and beyond. William’s eldest daughter Mary Reese Thompson married Samuel Anderson, son of Dr. Isaac Anderson, a Presbyterian minister who founded Maryville College in 1819 – one of the oldest colleges in the United States. Daughter Martha Wallace Thompson married medical doctor Calvin Post and relocated to Cades Cove where Post tended patients and prospected for gold and other minerals. Post is rumored to have set up a stop on the Underground Railroad in Cades Cove.
William’s younger brother James also had moved with the family to Blount County, where he married and had children. His grandson is the most famous member of the family – John J. Pershing or “Black Jack Pershing,” the commander of American forces in Europe during World War I.
Three of William and Rebecca Thompson’s children – William Harrison, Eliza, and Samuel – moved west to Henry County, Tennessee, and descendants of William Harrison and Eliza remained there for generations. William Harrison Thompson took his eldest daughter Mary Rebecca to visit the Maryville house and his family when she was a baby. She lived to be 96 years old, and as an elderly woman fulfilled a lifetime wish by traveling to see the home again. She was not the last. Memories of the old house in east Tennessee are still handed down through generations of the Thompson family, and descendants continue to visit to keep alive a connection with their family and its past.